At CES, smaller companies get tucked into the corners of the large exhibit halls or shunted off to the "overflow area" at the Sands. I spent Monday morning looking at some of the exhibits in these off-the-beaten-track locations and found four interesting gadgets:
The PepperPad 3 is a $699 handheld web device aimed squarely at nontechnical consumers. The Linux-based gadget is designed to compete with Microsoft's UMPC at a significantly lower price point. It includes a thumb-driven Blackberry-style keypad and offers a built-in Wi-Fi adapter to provide access to e-mail, IM, and streaming music or video. A friend who tagged along to the booth with me gave the device a big thumbs-up and said it would be perfect for his wife, a confirmed non-techie.
How do you keep track of user names and passwords for sensitive sites lank banks and brokerages? ID Vault is a USB-based device that includes a SmartCard microcontroller to store sensitive data in encrypted format. The PIN-based logon keeps a collection of secure bookmarks, integrated with your web browser, and sends credentials directly to logon pages, foiling keyloggers and shoulder surfers and leaving no trace of sensitive data on the PC itself. I'll have a more detailed look at this $50 product next week.
Ricavision was showing off a Bluetooth-enabled Media Center remote with a detachable display that can double as a media player and includes a set of Windows Vista gadgets. I'll have a review unit later this month and see how well it works. The company was also showing off an intriguing media server called PlixTV.
Data Drive Thru's Tornado is a small file-transfer device. For $60, you get a pair of USB connectors, a microcontroller, and some flash RAM packed into a compact package that's smaller than a paperback book. Plug each end into a Windows PC (sorry, no Mac or Linux support yet) and an Explorer-style window pops up on each machine, allowing you to drag and drop files without having to worry about networking protocols or installing software on either end. I left with a review unit that I'll try when I get back home.